Derrick Walker

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For the football player of the same name, see Derrick Walker (American football).

Derrick Walker (born 8 April 1945 in Leven, Scotland) is a former British auto racing team owner. Since May 2013,[1] Walker has been the President of operations and competition of IndyCar.

Formula One[edit]

He started in auto racing as a chief mechanic for the Brabham Formula One team from 1970 to 1975. It was quite an operation with F1 media czar Bernie Ecclestone the team owner, and drivers such as series champion Graham Hill and race winners Carlos Reutemann, Carlos Pace and John Watson. Both he and Watson moved to the ill-fated Penske team in 1976, a year after Mark Donohue was killed in the Austrian Grand Prix. Watson won the race that year and finished 7th in the World Championship.

Penske and IndyCars[edit]

He stayed with Penske in some capacity until 1987. From 1977 until 1980 he was the general manager of Penske Cars' manufacturing facility in Poole, England. He became Penske's Vice President of racing, and watched the team win four PPG Cups (series championships) and four Indianapolis 500-mile races. Some of the most successful American drivers came through the Penske power house during that period, including Rick Mears, Bobby Unser, Al Unser Sr. and Danny Sullivan.

Porsche and team ownership[edit]

In 1988 the lone Porsche Indy Car team suffered a tragic loss with the death of team owner Al Holbert and Walker took over team management. With driver Teo Fabi they won the race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course which proved to be the only one in the storied marque's Indy Car career. When the team went under Walker purchased the assets of the team and renamed it Walker Motorsports.

Walker ran Willy T. Ribbs sporadically until 1994, but enjoyed his best success in the early seasons with Scott Goodyear. Goodyear came second to Al Unser, Jr. in the 1992 Indianapolis 500[2] by 0.043 seconds, the closest finish to date in the race's history, and later won the 1992 Michigan 500 for Walker over then-Penske newcomer Paul Tracy. Goodyear and Robby Gordon spent large amounts of time with Walker, with 1996 their last seasons. Gordon left to pursue a further NASCAR career with Goodyear off to the new Indy Racing League. Walker hired Gil de Ferran, who came close to winning the 1997 title without winning a single race. He ran a second car for Naoki Hattori and Memo Gidley in 1999 but neither did well. Walker also ran a team in the Indy Racing League for Sarah Fisher in 2000 and 2001 with limited success.

A litany of pay-drivers[edit]

Main article: Walker Racing

In 2000 Goodyear, Walker's tire supplier, pulled out of Indy Car racing and with de Ferran off to Penske, ironically enough, Walker was forced to hire a pay-driver and found one in F1 refugee Shinji Nakano. It must be said though Nakano did not cover himself in shame and did a fair job, doing better than was expected despite missing a couple of races due to a testing accident. Bryan Herta filled in but was unavailable to run full-time in 2001. Walker hired another Japanese ex-F1 driver in Toranosuke Takagi, who brought sponsorship from Pioneer. Takagi stayed two seasons with Rodolfo Lavin and Darren Manning running out-dated Reynard chassis in 2003. The team ran a third car for Luis Diaz at Mexico City. Manning scored the team's best result of the year, finishing 2nd in a bizarre race at Surfer's Paradise. Unfortunately he left for Chip Ganassi Racing and Walker downsized to one car, running the lone Reynard for Mario Haberfeld.

A new era[edit]

Main article: Team Australia

Following the 2004 season, Walker sold a share of the team to Australian businessmen Craig Gore and John Fish, with this deal seeing the operation rebranded as Team Australia.[3] The team signed Alex Tagliani and Marcus Marshall to run Aussie Vineyards-sponsored Lola chassis for the 2005 season, with Walker remaining at the helm of the team. In late 2005 Will Power was drafted in place of Marshall, with the Power/Tagliani combination proving a solid one as the team rises with the added stability and increased funding under the Team Australia relationship.

In 2006 Team Australia also established a Champ Car Atlantic Championship team for drivers James Davison and Simon Pagenaud. Walker is also co-owner of Formula BMW USA team Walker Haberfeld Racing, with former Walker driver Mario Haberfeld for drivers Marco Santos and David Rangel.

On 7 April 2007, Walker won his first race as a team owner since 1999. Team Australia's Will Power won the inaugural Las Vegas GP.

References[edit]